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Zoo News
Oct 22, 2020

Inflammatory bowel disease is no fun. Diarrhea, vomiting, unpleasant gut sensations, even pain or fever. But if you’re an American red wolf, there are worse implications: That inflammation in your intestines might cause you to lose weight, get stressed and maybe even fail to reproduce. For an endangered species with less than 300 like you … Continued

Oct 13, 2020

It’s National Veterinary Technician Week Oct. 11-17, and we’re celebrating our wonderful veterinary technicians with a virtual thank-you card. Keepers, curators and veterinarians all weighed in to thank our superhero vet techs Julie Lemon and Sara Dunleavy for all they do to care for animals and help staff: prepping for procedures, monitoring animal vitals and … Continued

Sep 21, 2020

Aquarist John Foster cradled the vermilion rockfish gently in two hands, submersed. Anesthetized, it lay still as veterinarian Dr. Kadie Anderson took a quick documentary photo of its eyes, which bulged to each side. Then Foster lowered the fish – now fully awake – into a water-filled container that looked something like sci-fi author Jules … Continued

Sep 21, 2020

Shannon Smith stands outside on a fall day, calling out encouragement. “Foot!” she requests. Across the yard, her “buddy” of 24 years slowly lifts a leg, then puts it back down. “Good!” exclaims Smith, and offers an apple slice. It’s exercise time at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, and Smith is leading Suki the elderly … Continued

Sep 16, 2020

How does it feel to be the oldest siamang? Well, for Cho Cho, snuggled up with his companion Dudlee on a crisp fall morning at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, it seemed pretty cozy. This year Cho Cho is celebrating his 54th birthday – which makes him the oldest siamang on record in human care … Continued

Sep 01, 2020

TACOMA, Wash. – Boris, an elderly polar bear believed to be the oldest male of his species on the planet, was humanely euthanized at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium on Sept. 1 following a significant decline in his health. He was 34, a one-time circus bear who found a stable home in Tacoma, where he … Continued

Aug 19, 2020

Pakak the walrus has been busy visiting with the dentist. He was recently fitted for a new tusk crown. Walruses in zoos receive regular veterinary care, including dentist checkups. Walrus tusks don’t have a hard outer enamel layer like human teeth. So the tips of many walrus tusks have metal crowns placed on them to … Continued

Jun 17, 2020

UPDATE June 29: The chicks have moved behind-the-scenes to learn how to swim. Read the story for more! There are the chill kind of parents, who just relax and enjoy their little one. Then there are the intense kind of parents, super-protective and alert. At Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, we’ve got one pair of … Continued

Apr 17, 2020

If Dr. Karen Wolf needs another skilled set of hands for a walrus procedure, she knows who to call. And if Dr. Allison Case has a beaver or owl that needs attention while she’s out of town, she has a second clinic just a van-trip away. The two women are head veterinarians of Point Defiance … Continued

Apr 03, 2020

We may be closed due to recent restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus), but our keepers and veterinary team are still at the zoo every day caring for our animals. From enrichments to treats, check-ups to scratch-downs, here’s how we’re #closedbutstillcaring. Click on any image to start the slideshow. Mouse over to see … Continued

Mar 30, 2020

NOTE: This exam took place before recent social distancing recommendations were mandated. “Everyone ready?” Seven heads nodded, seven pairs of feet braced in neoprene boots, and four pairs of thickly-gloved hands readied a wide, webbed stretcher. The aquarist team had gathered in the South Pacific Aquarium isolation pool at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, with … Continued

Mar 12, 2020

“There’s a dentist for that?!” That might be the first reaction for many when they hear Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium’s sea otter Libby took a trip to the dentist’s office (AKA the healthcare center at the zoo). Dr. Kevin Stepaniuk, FAVD, DAVDC owns Veterinary Dentistry Education and Consulting Services and Veterinary Intraoral Radiology Reading … Continued

Feb 21, 2020

On the visitor side, the jellyfish gallery in the Pacific Seas Aquarium is a serene blue world of floating, pulsing forms. From eggcup to dinner-plate size, they hover in a kind of translucent eternity. Behind a nearby door, however, is another world; a world of bubbling tanks, petri dishes and complicated piping. This is the … Continued

Feb 20, 2020

It was about as far away visually as you could get from a cute clouded leopard cub. Scientifically, though, it was the first step of the journey. As veterinary and keeper staff from Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium watched closely, Dr. Pierre Comizzoli from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) angled a laparoscopic camera inside … Continued

Feb 06, 2020

Caring for the World’s Oldest Male Polar Bear  As Boris splashed in the pool, it was as if age didn’t matter. Paw-slamming a brown ball, pushing around a blue trash can and play-wrestling with his younger buddy Blizzard, the 34-year-old polar bear swam and flipped like a youngster. Then he hauled himself out, shook out … Continued

Jan 30, 2020

A new Atlantic green sea turtle, named Bruno, recently arrived at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. He’s about 23-years-old and came to Tacoma from Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Nebraska. On Tuesday, Bruno received a routine check-up with the Zoo’s veterinary staff. Bruno, like all animals new to the Zoo, must get a … Continued

Jan 28, 2020

It may have looked like a penguin foot spa – but it was so much more. On a cold winter morning, Purple the penguin lay back comfortably asleep in a cozy clinic room with each foot resting in a little tub of liquid. But this wasn’t just a foot soak. The little bird was about … Continued

Dec 16, 2019

Inspired to give your own pet an enriching treat these holidays? “Enrichments are a big part of caring for an animal,” explains Sara Mattison, staff biologist at the Wild Wonders Outdoor Theater and chair of the Enrichment Committee at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. “They give mental and physical stimulation, and encourage natural behaviors that … Continued

Dec 12, 2019

WATCH THEM: We’re giving the meerkats another holiday surprise 11am Sunday Dec. 22 in Kids’ Zone. ’Twas the month before Christmas and inside Kids’ Zone, The meerkats received a surprise of their own; A stocking was hung on the rock wall with care, But the one on the ground was a different affair! The keepers … Continued

Oct 15, 2019

For Veterinary Technician Week 2019, we’re not just celebrating our wonderful vet techs – we’re introducing them! Vet techs assist veterinarians in every aspect of animal health care, and they care deeply about our animals – often in very practical ways. We couldn’t care for our animals without them. Meet Sara Dunleavy, full-time clinical veterinary … Continued

Oct 15, 2019

For Veterinary Technician Week 2019, we’re not just celebrating our wonderful vet techs – we’re introducing them to you! Vet techs assist veterinarians in every aspect of animal health care, and they care deeply about our animals – often in very practical ways. We couldn’t care for animals without them. Meet Julie Lemon, full-time vet … Continued

Oct 07, 2019

It’s possibly the best job in the world. Adrienne Umpstead, staff biologist at the Wild Wonders Outdoor Theater, sits in a pool of sunlight just near the tamandua habitat. One foot propped on a stool, her lap is covered with a small pillow and fleece blanket. One hand is poised with a bottle; the other … Continued

Sep 03, 2019

Big news: Our new baby tamandua is a girl, and her name is Chiquita! And since her weight was low at birth and she was slow to gain weight despite nursing, she’s getting extra veterinary and keeper care around the clock to help her grow and thrive. “She’s doing very well,” said head veterinarian Dr. … Continued

Aug 21, 2019

If you’re an apex jungle predator, it’s pretty important to have strong teeth. So when Kirana, one of the four Sumatran tigers at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, needed some work on a fractured canine last week, she had a team of 12 veterinarians, veterinary dentists, technicians and keepers to take care of her. “Can … Continued

Jul 29, 2019

At 8 a.m. the check-up line was assembled. Two veterinarians, two veterinary technicians, a curator and two Rocky Shores keepers all stood poised at three long tables in the seabird underwater viewing area at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. Carefully lined up on the tables were a scale, spare leg bands, clippers, vials, syringes primed … Continued

Jul 17, 2019

Turns out, when you give physicals to giant pouched rats, some things are easy – like examining their long curved front teeth. Getting a blood sample from those tiny veins? Not so easy. But it’s a vital part of assessing health. “I’ll try the jugular first,” says head veterinarian Dr. Karen Wolf, gently parting soft … Continued

Jul 16, 2019

He’s healthy, weighs around 25 pounds and follows Mom everywhere. The Malayan tapir calf born July 12 at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium has just received his first wellness exam, and he appears to be in perfect health, says Dr. Karen Wolf, head veterinarian. “He is bright, exploring his environment and is in good body … Continued

Jul 10, 2019

It took three staff members, six adult volunteers, three youth Zoo Guides and four classes of high schoolers to shovel sand for polar bears – but it was worth it. On a late spring day, Boris and Blizzard, the polar bears at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, shifted to their inside dens for the day … Continued

Jun 05, 2019

For most of us, a wellness exam at 52 is all about middle-age health issues. For Cho Cho, it’s an impressive tribute to a senior siamang and the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium staff who care for him – because at 52, Cho Cho is believed to be the oldest siamang in human care in … Continued

May 16, 2019

PUPDATE: The red wolf pups are now roaming outside on view to the public. They also have names – meet them here. When Dr. Karen Wolf picks up eight newborn red wolf pups one by one, it’s more than just a routine – though adorable – new pup exam. It’s a victory. “American red wolves … Continued